Melbourne entrepreneurs and former engineering students Winston Wijeyeratne and Selvam Sinnappan founded online mattress company Sleeping Duck earlier this year, which has seen impressive growth since its birth.
The duo met in ANZ’s graduate program following the completion of their engineering degrees, where they shared frustration at the inefficiencies of big business.
“We noticed that working in a large business presented a number of difficulties, especially from a customer service perspective. This was a significant concern which inspired us to start our own business,” said Wijeyeratne.
“We set out to develop a business that was simple enough to ensure the customer had the best possible experience.”
Co-founder Sinnappan said after months of brainstorming, they identified a gap in the mattress industry. “The mattress industry was in desperate need of innovation, particularly in the customer service department. Our own experiences in major brick and mortar stores were terrible and stories of people spending thousands of dollars on mattresses – only to be disappointed – were all too common,” he said.
So where did the name ‘Sleeping Duck’ come from? Do ducks sleep better than people? Or are they just softer? “Ducks are interesting animals. They sleep with one eye open. For us it’s our commitment to always be on the lookout for what’s coming and new ways to do things,” said the duo.
How much did their engineering backgrounds contribute to the production of a superior mattress? “It gave our company a huge edge starting off. We didn’t have to pay for R&D –we were able to do most of it ourselves. It mainly required a superior knowledge of material properties and how we could vary them to produce a seriously comfortable product that would also be durable enough to last for 10 years. By combining our knowledge of materials and some smart industrial design we were able to create the first mattress that allows you to remove and change individual parts as necessary. This not only makes it easier for the customer to change the firmness of their mattress but it also future proofs us from any warranty issues. Instead of spending a significant amount of money getting mattresses back to us, we can send out parts as needed.”
Wow. These guys are more impressive by the minute. Do they remember when the idea struck? “We were both pretty fed up with the 9-5 work and were having dinner at a Korean place in the CBD shortly after Friday night drinks. The conversation went along the lines of Mattress shopping really sucks. We could do it better. Let’s give it a shot!”
So did they try sleeping on a lot of different mattresses, and were there any pillow-fights?
“We didn’t technically sleep on anything since you can’t really try a mattress for more than 15 minutes in a store. No pillow fights, just a bunch of interesting questions from the staff trying to work out if the two of us were a couple! We did however sleep on many mattress prototypes we designed, which led us to develop a seriously comfortable product.”
How does the mattress itself differ from the usual? “As a start we use a combination of the best technology that is available to the industry. But what makes it really unique is our process. The mattress is dynamic. We call as many customers as possible to gauge feedback from their experience. We then research, design, test and implement improvements based on feedback we have received. We won’t actually release a Version 2 of our product. It just gets better over time.”
And finally, any plans to try diversifying?
“We think the reason for our success is because we have one product. We are very big on the idea that the narrower the focus, the stronger the brand. I would expect that Sleeping Duck will extend itself to products which improve the sleep experience, such as pillows for example.”